OREM – In college basketball, five or six minutes is all that is necessary to win a game. At least if you are the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds. SUU went on a 19-4 run over the final five and a half minutes of the game to defeat Utah Valley University 68-54 on Saturday night at the UCCU Center.
“We’ve been struggling down the stretch offensively,” UVU head coach Mark Pope said. “It’s a little bit of a chronic problem for us. We have guys that are trying to do things by themselves.”
The loss drops UVU to 2-6 on the season and it was their fourth straight loss. SUU improved to 2-5 on the season.
James McGee scored 20 of his team-high 24 points in the second half for the Thunderbirds, which included going 11-of-11 from the free throw line. He scored 14 of those points in the final five minutes of the game.
With UVU leading 47-46 and the shot clock winding down, McGee threw up a 3-point prayer that hit off the backboard and went down to give SUU a 49-47 lead that they never relinquished. AJ Hess then hit a 3-pointer just two minutes later as the shot clock buzzer sounded to make it 55-50. SUU then hit 13-of-14 free throws over the next four minutes to seal the game.
UVU guard Marcel Davis came out swinging, as he scored the first 12 points for the Wolverines and a career-high and game-high 28 points. However, he didn’t get any help from any of his other teammates. No UVU player scored more than seven points and Konner Frey, who averages 17 points per game, was held scoreless.
“We get to end of games and what you need is a guy that you can call his number and he’s going to deliver sometimes,” Pope said. “We’re not there in our progression as a team yet and so it leaves us trusting our team to make decisions and that can be a really successful way to win for an experienced, veteran team. Right now for us, it’s really hard and so we got to find ways to nurse our way through it.”
Two bright spots for UVU were that they got Ivory Young and Andrew Bastien back from injuries. Young finished with seven points and Bastien had five points, nine rebounds, and a season-high seven blocks on the night. It was the second most blocks ever in a game in program history.
The Wolverines will look to bounce back on Wednesday night when they host another in-state team in Weber State at the UCCU Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.
Photos courtesy of Byron Harward & Julie Ostler
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